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Top News Links: Monday, Jan. 21

Alabama unemployment drops to 7.1 percent

Employment numbers in Alabama looked the best in months, as the unemployment rate dropped to 7.1 percent, well below the national average of 7.8 percent. — Office of the Governor

Manufacturing jobs up in Alabama

There are more manufacturing jobs in Alabama than a year ago, but mining, construction and information services saw big drops. — al.com

Military warns civilian employees about budget fears

The U.S. Army this weekend joined other branches of the military, saying that it is implementing an immediate hiring freeze for civilian workers and that temporary civilian employees will be let go, but that it will try not to furlough other civilian employees, because Congress has not passed a new funding bill. – al.com

Air Force IT conference cancelled

The Air Force's annual IT conference, slated for Montgomery in August, has been cancelled for the second straight year, due to military budget constraints. — Alabama's 13 TV

Army ground vehicle faces development cuts

Only one of the two firms working to develop the Army's new Ground Combat Vehicle will get a contract for the next phase of the project, the Army reported this weekend; Huntsville's BAE Systems is key to one of the teams. — Huntsville Times

First JHSV heads out of Mobile

Eight months late and $31 million over budget, the USNS Spearhead, first of the joint high speed vessels under a multi-ship contract for Austal USA, is slated to head for Pensacola this week for testing before making its way to its base in Virginia. — Mobile Press-Register

Budget chair looks to close state liquor stores

Rep. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) is proposing an end to state-run liquor stores, instead allowing private companies to handle liquor sales; ABC board leader says stores make profit for state. — My Fox AL

Governor, lawmakers propose plans to consolidate law enforcement

Gov. Bentley and Rep. Del Marsh are both proposing plans that would consolidate law enforcement from state police to game wardens. — Alabama's 13 TV

Birmingham ball park attracting neighbors

Real estate deals are popping around the soon-to-open Regions Field in Birmingham. — Birmingham News

Elmore banks team to loan $10 million to county

None of Elmore County's banks could handle a $10 million loan for infrastructure repairs for the county without exceeding its loan limits, so three teamed up to offer the loan at a 2.17 percent rate. — Wetumpka Herald

Volunteers add half mile to Pinhoti Trail

Volunteer workers are blazing a new half-mile section of the Pinhoti Trail in southwest Georgia, which will eventually tie to the trail in Alabama and to the Appalachian Trail. — Dalton (GA) Daily Citizen

Poultry nutritionist joins Aviagen

Sandro Cerrate has joined Aviagen in Huntsville as poultry nutritionist. — All About Feed

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